One thing that makes replicating Peruvian food difficult elsewhere is the broad range of distinct ingredients that are abundant here but relative unknown elsewhere in the world. Here is a quick rundown of a few of the more common:Aji amarillo
This is a mainstay of Peruvian cooking. Capsicum Baccatum has been cultivated here for more than two-and-a-half millennia. Despite its vivid orange color (which is a similar shade to the halbanero) it isn't a particularly hot pepper. Its taste has a fruity aspect that melds well with many Peruvian dishes. Its ubiquity on the Peruvian table is due to the wide variety of ways it is prepared. Fresh peppers are used directly in dish or mixed into a mayonnaise. Dried peppers are just as common and used directly in many dishes as well or toasted and ground into a yellow powder (thus, the name) that is the base for a number of very common sauces.Aji limo
This pepper (Capsicum chinense) is used mostly in the northern coast and is a hallmark of the ceviches there. It is a little bit hotter than aji amarillo in my estimation. (It is nothing like the Jalapeno or, God forbid, the Halbanero but Peruvians constantly decry the punch it packs) That said, I have had some very good hot sauce made from it. You can find it in Lima markets but it is usually just find it in dried form further south than Trujillo. I have been told the name has no specific translation; it's pretty much just what they call it. Another pepper pretty common in that region is aji verde (Capsicum baccatum) that has a similar bite.Limon
In Peru, limes are lemons but lemons and limes are nowhere to be found. Confused? It's simple, really. In Spanish, the word lemon
means lime but in Peru what we from the US call limes and lemons are not available. Peruvian limes (Citrus aurantifolia) are pretty much unique to Peru. Their high acid content is a key reason for their indispensable role to the country's cuisine - particularly ceviche. In the US we are used to the larger Persian Limes (Citrus latifola) which do not have a similar proportion of juice nor the astonishingly high acid content. The closest you can find in a US market are Key limes from Florida which are related to the Peruvian limes but not quite the same.Olluco
This interesting tuber (Ullucus tuberosus) is found in a number of Peruvian dishes but is pretty much unknown outside of the country. It has a texture less like a potato and more like a fruit but it's taste is clearly in the realm of tubers. (Personally, I don't like it much but I can completely understand its broad appeal) Often referred to as "papa lisa" you can find it in pretty much any market or store. Many of the varieties have interesting names that play on the general shape and appearance of the red marks on the tuber's skin; "Christ's knee," "shrimp of the earth" and "cradled baby."Granadilla
This relative of the passion fruit (Passiflora ligularis) is pretty common across the Andes and a good bit of Central America. It has a hard shell that encloses a slimy ball of black seeds which are the edible part. It is different from the giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis) which is more like a melon and indigenous to Brazil. Usually, the fruit is cracked open and the pulp and seeds, which are somewhat bitter, consumed out-of-hand. For the table, the fruit is cut in half and the contents are eaten with a spoon. The strained juice is much used for making cold drinks and sherbets.